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Does democracy necessarily rest on relativism? The origins of the debate: Protagoras and Plato

Giovanni Giorgini - 15 dicembre 2010 You will forgive me if I start, anachronistically, with a quote which belongs to a much later time than the authors I shall be dealing with. As I hope to show, it is not out of place because it identifies perfectly the problem and enables me to scatter light on the path I intend to follow. In the Gospel of John, in his confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus says: “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Regardless of our religious persuasion, it is undeniable that Jesus was a great religious and political innovator as well as an effective speaker. Here he touched upon an issue I intend to examine, only from a political perspective of course (for the religious part I shall be ready in a few decades), namely the political import and the practical effect of truth; more specifically, whether truth does in fact set us free or, on the contrary, freedom rests precisely on the absence of truth [...]

ABSTRACT

You will forgive me if I start, anachronistically, with a quote which belongs to a much later time than the authors I shall be dealing with. As I hope to show, it is not out of place because it identifies perfectly the problem and enables me to scatter light on the path I intend to follow. In the Gospel of John, in his confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus says: “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Regardless of our religious persuasion, it is undeniable that Jesus was a great religious and political innovator as well as an effective speaker. Here he touched upon an issue I intend to examine, only from a political perspective of course (for the religious part I shall be ready in a few decades), namely the political import and the practical effect of truth; more specifically, whether truth does in fact set us free or, on the contrary, freedom rests precisely on the absence of truth.

Giovanni Giorgini

This paper was first delivered at the 9th Conference of The Collegium Politicum ("Amis et ennemis de la démocratie. L'histoire intellectuelle de la démocratie et son reflet dans le débat antique et moderne", January 29th 2010, Fondation Hardt, Geneva).
Subsequent versions were read at Stanford University and at the University of California, Berkeley.
I am grateful to all the participants for thier comment. I will also appreciate very much any suggestion or criticism from readers of the "Rivista"

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